Redefining a classic signature look and feel of any tried-and-true studio microphone can be tough. Enter the Rode NT1 5th Generation, which adds a few new tricks to a well-established microphone to compete in all digital world. Through the inclusion of USB and XLR, it stands as one of the best options for game streamers, podcasters and broadcasters provided that they've got a setup that accommodates for its sensitivity and power.
Price and Availability
The Rode NT1 5th Generation is now available worldwide after launching in February 2023. You can pick it up in the US, the UK, and the company’s native Australia for $249 / £249 / AU$399. There’s the choice between silver and black, and you can either buy from online outlets, such as Amazon, or directly from Rode.
Design and Features
At first glance, there’s nothing that immediately sets the Rode NT1 5th Generation apart from its older variants. The microphone line, the first ever developed by the manufacturer back in 1991, has a timeless studio look about it, with little on the surface changing in 30 years. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, as you’ve got a side-address cardioid (meaning you use it vertically) complete with a dedicated pop shield and shock mount. These are all key staples of what you hope to find in a proper broadcasting microphone for the studio.
The included Rode NTSM6 Suspension Mount goes a long way to showcase the premium nature of the Rode NT1 5th Generation. The combined pop filter and shock mount are seriously high quality and made of durable plastic and elasticated material for a floating support that completely protects against any unwanted bumps or vibrations. Given how sensitive studio microphones like this one are, it’s an essential inclusion, so it’s good that you’re getting proper support in the full package. There’s also a 10-year warranty here so it’ll last you a very long time.
Where the Rode NT1 5th Generation sets itself apparent from the older models is in its dual connectivity as you can plug it in via XLR and USB-C. It’s not just the multiple output methods that helps this microphone stand out, though, as there’s also a 32-bit float optimized for audio interfaces for digital recording. Through this inclusion, Rode has claimed this is the “unclippable” microphone which means that no matter how loud or how sensitive the sound inputs get, you’ll still have useable audio tracks when all is said and done.
The box includes a lengthy red XLR lead and a durable USB-C to USB-C cable for both connection methods. You’ll need to invest in a stand or boom arm for a setup like this, as you don’t get one included. From my time with Rode’s microphones, there’s no better option than the excellent PSA1+ boom arm, which is built with the brand’s suspension mounts in mind and offers a level of versatility needed for streaming and podcasting with how many angles you can get.
Having used my fair share of studio gear before, I can confidently say that the Rode NT1 5th Generation is the best-sounding microphone I’ve ever used through its native XLR input. Whether you’re running this condenser mic through a dedicated audio interface and mixing board such as the Rode Procaster II or something more humble like the Razer Audio Mixer, the sound quality you’re getting is second to none. That’s not surprising given the 4dBA sensitivity, as the manufacturer claims it’s “the world’s quietest studio condenser microphone”. Everything from the softest whisper to a regular speaking voice and screaming comes across crystal clear.
You have sampling rates of 48, 96, 192 KHz giving you more precise control over the levels of representation. It’s standard for 48 KHz to be used by your average microphone and more than acceptable in most circumstances, but you can push beyond if you need that extra headroom. As this is a modern Rode microphone with USB connectivity, you’ve also got the option of going plug and play with the company’s line of software, including the classic Rode Connect and the recently launched Rode Unify, the latter of which is more targeted towards gamers and streamers.
You can adjust just how the DSP (digital signal processing) sounds with the Rode NT1 5th Generation through these programs. The included Aphex processing means you’ve got options for a brighter sound with various effects to tweak the microphone's sound to your liking. I’ve found that the USB connectivity isn’t the full package that it could be compared to the brand’s dedicated USB broadcasting microphone, the recently released Rode X XDM-100.
That’s because the Rode NT1 5th Generation doesn’t feature any on-body controls for tweaking audio and also lacks any gain or monitoring options, as you’ll find with the Rode X XDM-100, which produces a near-identical sound through USB-C. If you’re considering getting the latest NT1 microphone purely for digital sound recording through USB and into audio interfaces, you may be better going with the dedicated USB microphone instead for the plug-and-play nature. It feels like a secondary addition to an already all-star mic that’s more nice than an essential inclusion.
I had to play around a lot more with recording levels and different software, such as Cockos Reaper and several different plugins before I was completely happy with how the Rode NT1 5th Generation sounded through USB. If you’ve got an audio interface with a decent pickup in it and know a little about how to get a crisp and clear sound for your gaming streaming or podcasting setup.
Remember that the Rode NT1 5th Generation is as sensitive as many studio microphones are. I found that the sensitivity, while impressive in the pickup, did tend to pick up the whirling fans of my gaming laptop on my desk and the even the case fans on the gaming PC across the room. The level of sound dampening isn’t quite as thorough as the Rode X XDM-100, which is aimed at gamers and streamers with its noise reduction.
If you’re after a truly top-of-the-line broadcasting option, then the iconic status of the NT1’s latest revision is hard to argue against when plugged into a proper audio interface. As a definitive all-in-one solution, there’s a lot to love here, with a few small caveats that shouldn’t bother the seasoned recording veteran.
Should I buy the Rode NT1 5th Generation?
Buy it if…
You want a high-end microphone at a competitive rate
You’re getting a lot of microphone for the sticker price, and the 10-year warranty means your investment will last a long time.
You want the freedom of XLR and USB connectivity
Few flagship microphones offer both XLR and USB so competently and offer features through software to make the most of the warm sound profile.
Don't buy it if...
You want to record in loud environments
Rode made the Rode NT1 5th Generation for use in whisper-quiet studio settings, so don’t invest in this microphone if your home setup can get noisy.
You just want a USB microphone
If you don’t own an audio interface and just want to go through USB-C then you’re better served by the Rode X XDM-100 which is built around the connection method with quality of life inclusions that the NT1 5th Generation lacks.